The two men arrested in Albany for allegedly taking part in a terrorist plot were men of G-d. So friends and neighbors have been telling reporters. Mohammed Mosharref Hossain was a pillar of the local congregation. Yassin Muhiddin Aref was a prayer leader. They called their mosque the House of Peace.
The mosque belongs to the North American Islamic Trust, which runs many other mosques in the U.S. The trust is funded mostly by the Saudis. It has other enterprises, too, including a book club. One of its featured offerings is "Jihad: A Commitment to World Peace."
Or if you are not a reader, you can express commitment to jihad in action. Like the Albany warriors who, the government charges, signed up to help gun down a senior Pakistani diplomat on the streets of New York City, using a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile.
The upstate jihadis are not unique. On the contrary, they are just the latest in a long and growing list of local Islamic "spiritual leaders" and national Muslim leaders who have been implicated in terrorist activity.
Take Abdurahman Alamoudi, for example, founder of the American Muslim Council (hailed in 2002 by FBI chief Robert Mueller as "the most mainstream Muslim group" in the U.S.).
Alamoudi faces up to 23 years in prison for "engaging in illegal business deals" with Libya. What kind of deals? According to court documents, he was part of a plot to murder the Saudi crown prince.
Then there are the three leaders of America's largest Muslim charity, the Holy Land Foundation. They are awaiting trial in Dallas on a 42-count federal indictment for funneling millions of dollars to Islamic terrorist groups in the Middle East.
The head of another major Islamic charity, Benevolence International Foundation of Illinois, was recently convicted of sending funds to Islamic terrorist groups in Bosnia and Chechnya. And so on and so forth.
At this point, I'm supposed to add The Caveat: Most American Muslims are peaceable, law-abiding, terror-hating folks. Islam itself is a "religion of peace."
Sorry, but I'm no longer convinced. It may be that Islam in its true form is as gentle as a lamb. But in the real world, it is an aggressive, violent political ideology. It may also be that a majority of U.S. Muslims object to the jihad being waged against infidel Christians, Jews, Hindus, atheists, agnostics and democrats of all denominations. But if so, they are keeping it to themselves.
After Abdurahman Alamoudi's confession of guilt, his lawyer, Stanley Cohen, warned that "there are those people who will seek to manipulate this plea into an attack on the entire Muslim community."
The Muslim establishment in America uses this form of intellectual jujitsu every time one of its leaders gets caught conducting holy war. Mosques and Muslim schools and institutions are hotbeds of agitation and terrorism? Why, just making the charge is a hate crime.
This trick has worked amazingly well on Americans who pride themselves on pluralism and good manners. For years, it kept the feds away from mosques and the politicians insisting against all evidence that Islam is nothing more than another path to the G-d of Us All.
But almost three years after 9/11, this hocus pocus is losing its potency. "There are terrorists among us," Gov. Pataki said after the Albany jihadis were arrested. He didn't specify because he didn't need to.
If America's Muslims don't want to be identified with America's enemies, they are going to need new leaders and loud voices. Slapping the word "peace" over the door of the mosque just isn't going to do it anymore.